Caterair International Inc. of Washington, which was formed a year ago after a management buyout of Marriott's airline catering division, awarded a contract to TechniStar of Longmont, Colo., to develop a robotics system for its in-flight catering operations.

The companies did not disclose terms of the contract.

TechniStar, which provides systems and technologies to the manufacturing and food industries, will design, manufacture and test an automated tray-assembly system and a silverware-sorting-and-packaging system for Caterair.

Caterair said in a statement that this will be the first robotics system in the airline catering industry.

If tests of the new technology are successful, Caterair will have the exclusive rights to TechniStar's technology for one year.

In the following four years, TechniStar may offer its products commercially, but Caterair will retain the first right of refusal.

Caterair has not yet determined where the new technology will be tested.

Whittaker Bioproducts Inc. of Walkersville, Md., which makes tissue culture products and diagnostic kits, acquired technology and rights to technology developed by LipoGen Inc. of Knoxville.

Under the agreement, Whittaker bought exclusive rights to a patented technology of LipoGen's that is used in autoimmune diagnostic kits, which determine the presence of antibodies in the human immune system that have begun to attack healthy tissue cells.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The employees of Novacom Services Inc. of Vienna took ownership of the firm through the acquisition of all outstanding shares of stock. Ten employees acquired the firm from Delaware Corp., which also has a controlling interest in Novacom Inc. of Chantilly. No outside investors were involved.

Novacom Services, which has annual sales of about $1.5 million, provides telecommunications installation, operation and maintenance services to companies such as Ford Aerospace Communications, Harris Corp., BellSouth Corp. and several government agencies.

ADAPSO of Arlington, a computer software and services industry association, announced its intent to acquire the Software Business Practices Council of Phoenix, which was formed in October to promote ethical business practices in the software industry.

If the acquisition is approved, the SBPC will become an independent group within ADAPSO's Software Industry Division.

Gail Kaplan's Classic Catering of Baltimore and Catering People of Owings Mills, Md., merged to form the Classic Catering People. The new firm, which has about $5 million in annual billings and a staff of 200, will be located in Owings Mills.

MCI Communications Corp. of Washington was awarded contracts by New York-based New York Life Insurance Co. and National Westminster Bancorp and Hartford-based Connecticut Mutual. All three companies will use MCI's virtual private network product to connect their offices nationwide.

PRC Realty Systems of McLean began producing photo listing books of properties for sale using advanced imaging technology and read/write optical disk storage systems.

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